Nothing portentous or polite;
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
My play “Out to the Folks” is being read tonight at Theatre Aquarius at 9pm. And I’m nervous. Being on stage is less stressful to me than having someone else reciting lines I wrote.
Tonight’s reading was originally supposed to be at the end of June. Then it got moved to the beginning of August. Now, here it is… And after all this time to prepare for it, I still have butterflies in my stomach. Actually, more like turbulence in my solar plexus…
As I get more experienced with my writing, I wait a little longer before exposing it to an audience. My previous public reading was a first draft. Tonight’s reading is a fourth draft. And yet, I am painfully aware that this play still has more drafts to be written. There’s lots more work to be done.
It seems that with more experience, the process gets slower not faster. I will admit that it’s easier (-ish) to get a first draft done, but with that comes the knowledge that the first draft is only the beginning of the journey.
How many drafts do you have to write until your play is “finished”? Most people agree that you abandon your plays before you actually feel that they are “done”.
My play is called “Out to the Folks” and it is about a family reacting to one of their own “coming out”. I’ve heard many stories over the years of people coming out after they were married and had kids. My sister’s father-in-law came out after being married for years and having three young kids.
But I really wanted to explore the idea of how we try to be politically correct on the surface while we each have our own prejudices underneath.
It is a comedy. I’m hoping people will laugh.
I don’t have any answers, but I hope I posed some good questions.
Why am I so nervous? My friend Shari has already read a previous draft and would like to produce the play. That’s a good sign, right? And yet… I’m still taking some deep breaths to relax myself. The reading is still about ten hours away.
What’s the worst that can happen? People won’t laugh and they’ll hate it. Or worse – they’ll be bored! If they hate it, at least that’s an emotional response. And I have to admit that since I’m of Irish heritage, we only gauge the success of our plays by the size of the riot it causes.
The great thing about a reading is hearing what works and what doesn’t work. Getting specific feedback from the audience can be beneficial, too. In my original draft of Minced, the mother and daughter only prepared to make the minced meat pies. It was someone’s suggestion at the reading to have them actually make the pies. I just hadn’t thought of it.
It’s probably that I haven’t done enough readings to feel completely blasé about them. Or maybe you never get there completely. Each play has its own requirements and processes.
Another deep breath. What would I say to a fellow playwright if they were feeling what I’m feeling? That’s easy!
Relax. Keep taking deep breaths. Enjoy it. The audience is going to do half the work for you, as they imagine the movements on stage in their heads. It will probably be one the most perfect executions of your piece because there aren’t physical limitations to restrict things. It’s one of the best feedback mechanisms you can have. The feedback should give you some good suggestions for the next draft. Have some specific goals that you want to get from the reading.
Okay. Here are some things I want to get from tonight’s reading:
- I’d like to know what people liked.
- I want to know at what parts they started to lose interest.
- What would they like to see more of?
- What did they think was going to happen, but didn’t?
Hmm. Now that I have something to focus on, I’m not feeling as nervous.
Let the reading begin!